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REACH: No timely authorisations for chromic acid

REACH: No timely authorisations for chromic acid

ZVO does not expect any decision on applications for authorisations by the "sunset date". 

The so-called “sunset date”, i.e. the date from which chromium trioxide, as a consequence of REACH, may no longer be used or put into circulation without valid authorisation, is 21 September 2017. The Central Association of Surface Treatment Technology (Zentralverband Oberflächentechnik e.V. (ZVO)) assumes that most of the authorisation applications filed will not be subject to a decision by then. The use of chromic acid will, however, continue to be possible in the period between the “sunset date” and authorisation. 

The European Chemical Regulation on the Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals REACH poses a challenge for electroplating and surface technology, especially for medium-sized companies. So currently the clock is ticking for the free use of chromium trioxide in the EU, that plays an important part in chrome plating: from 21 September 2017 chromium trioxide may no longer be used or put into circulation without valid authorisation. This applies also to any possible stocks as well as to the aqueous solution of chromium trioxide which is often referred to as chromic acid.

ECHA recommends the authorisation of six applications 

Numerous manufacturer and user consortiums have filed authorisation applications for chromium trioxide. The ECHA committees (European Chemical Agencies) “RAC” and “SEAC” have meanwhile endorsed the approval of six applications. According to their final recommendations, in the event of further use of chromium trioxide in the EU, the risks for human health are markedly lower than the overall benefit of further use. 

If the European Commission follows the present recommendations as the basis, it can be assumed that the following periods will be fixed up to the first review of the authorisation:

• Formulating and producing mixtures: seven years

• Functional chrome plating: seven years

• Functional chrome plating of a decorative nature: four years 

• Conversion coatings for applications in the aerospace industry: seven years 

• Conversion coatings for applications in various industries: four years 

• Passivating of “tin-plated steel” (ETP): four years

For the use of chromic acid within the scope of the metallisation of plastics (ABS pickle) the ECHA committees have recommended twelve years up to the first review of authorisation.

Users must report authorisation numbers and quantities purchased 

Downstream users, i.e. operators of electroplating systems, must, at the latest 90 days after preparation of the authorisation via the ECHA website, report the authorisation number for the respective application and the probable annual quantities purchased. It is important to ensure that all basic conditions from the official notification of authorisation are met during operation. 

If the EU Commission follows the recommendations of the ECHA Committees, nothing will change for the purchasers of chromic acid-based surfaces. Even after 21 September 2017 they can, for example, purchase, without restriction, hard chrome surfaces for at least another seven years and, for example, bright chrome surfaces for at least another four years. 

Use of chromic acid possible during the interim period 

In June 2017, the EU Commission will put a first authorisation application of a consortium on the agenda. It is to be expected that at that point in time the first draft for the granting of authorisation will be transmitted to the EU member states. Up to voting on the final issue of the authorisation, for which a majority on the committee of the members states and in the EU parliament is the precondition, according to optimistic estimates, another three months will pass. Hence it is to be expected that legally binding authorisation is issued only after the “sunset date” of 21 September 2017. 

Between the “sunset date” and the day of the legally binding issue of the authorisation, chromium trioxide and mixtures and preparations containing chromium trioxide may be supplied and used without restriction. This applies, however, only to applications for which authorisation was applied for.

Operators can refer to ongoing authorisation applications 

“Operators of electroplating systems can, in the probable event of regulatory bodies asking questions about authorisation in the interim period, refer to the ongoing applications for authorisation of their suppliers and/or authorisation consortiums”, states Christoph Matheis, ZVO managing director. These can be viewed on the ECHA website.

Source: ZVO Newsletter of 16.05.2017